Amid a weakened economy in Calgary, SAIT students are being tasked to think outside the box by looking for work outside their intended industry.

The technology institute's career fair drew hundreds of students in its first day, hoping to score face-time with employers and get a competitive edge.

"Everyone wants to get a job and yet we're all lining up at job fairs trying to get in," said machinist technician student Nathan Aldous.

Students shuffled shoulder to shoulder between booths set up by energy companies, utility providers, banks and even some surprise attendees — like Vernon-based Kal Tire.

The company came looking primarily for automotive students, but say they have numerous positions that draw on a wide-range of skills.

"We're looking for people from a general business background as well, so they come in and go to corporate," said human resources manager Paul Rees, saying there is room to rise the ranks in their management system.

"I think the big thing we're seeing in this economy is people are opening their eyes and seeing there is more to Calgary than oil and gas. It definitely has supported the city, and still is, but there's so much other industry out there that has great opportunity as well so they can start to build another career in another facet but still have the same lifestyle."

Calgary 911

Cindy Ruzsvanszki from Calgary's 911 call centre said she expects many students could be ideal candidates to become employees. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Students also flocked to the Calgary 911 Centre's booth. Soon, they will be looking for 20 more people to field calls for police, fire and medical emergencies.

Cindy Ruzsvanszki says many SAIT students from varying programs could easily fit the bill.

"We're looking for people who are diverse and can take on a high stress job, long hours and able to go from call to call without thinking about the last call that they took, and able to help the next person."

Ruzsvanszki says students with customer service experience and communication skills are ideal candidates.

Students have been increasingly encouraged to broaden their horizons when looking for work.

Although Aldous wants to work as a machinist, he's open-minded.

"You don't have to work directly in the machinist trade you can always work a little bit outside, you don't need to be in a machine shop, you could work in a hospital or something."

Aldous says he feels positive about his chances of finding work, and hopes he finds a position here in Calgary.

Nathan Aldous

First-year machinist technician student Nathan Aldous says his game plan all along was to be open-minded about career opportunities that may exist outside the machine shop. (Monty Kruger/CBC)